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Originally published April 29, 2008
A popular place for healthcare providers to begin developing business intelligence applications is with service line analysis. After all, most of the organization is already organized into service lines. Doctors and most other clinicians are hired into and practice in specialties. Facilities, equipment, supplies and medications are lined up this way as well. Insurance coverage is provided for specific types of services, and claims are generated, adjudicated and paid for these specific services. Most people inside as well as outside the organization understand service lines.
Despite this strong alignment along service lines, many provider organizations such as hospitals, physician practices and others struggle to get a clear, comprehensive picture of the performance of their service line portfolio. There are a number of obstacles to getting this picture. These obstacles can be political, procedural and technical in nature. Without such a picture, though, a provider organization can experience significant slippages in its day-to-day financial, clinical and operational performance. In addition, strategic investment decisions are likely to be severely hampered without a view into the trends and emerging patterns – both within as well as across service lines.
Business intelligence can help. First of all, business intelligence and analytics can help to get a comprehensive picture of the standard financial and clinical performance measures. But, perhaps more importantly, business intelligence can help the organization to build on these standard measures to find trends and patterns within each service line, across service lines and even across dimensions other than service lines.
Let’s start with a definition.
Every business has “lines” of some sort. Manufacturers have product lines. Retailers have departmental groupings called “softlines” and “hardlines.” Insurers have lines of business. Accountants, attorneys, doctors and consultants organize themselves into practices, which are essentially service lines. Even governmental institutions have “lines of business,” but these are known as bureaus, departments and divisions.
Healthcare providers, being service businesses, have service lines as well. Different types of providers have different types of service lines. For instance, hospitals tend to have surgical lines of business such as cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, colon and rectal surgery. Other service lines in hospitals include emergency medicine, intensive care and birthing centers. Physician practices have different types of service lines, usually focused on the type of anatomical specialty being practiced (e.g., cardiology, endocrinology or hematology) or the group being served (e.g., family practice, geriatrics, gynecology or pediatrics). Still other service lines focus on the patient’s activities (e.g., aviation medicine, military medicine or sports medicine).
These are the traditional service lines. There are also some emerging service lines such as retail clinic services, medical tourism services and integrative medicine services.
Each of these types of service lines has a standard set of measures of success including financial success, return on investment, service level success, marketing and branding success, and clinical quality success.
Service line performance analysis is a highly complex and ongoing process, which makes it a particularly ripe area for the application of business intelligence. Leaders such as service line directors, financial managers, practice administrators and chief operating officers, as well as strategy and marketing managers need a variety of information from a number of sources in order to plan, develop and grow the organization’s service lines.
Your organization needs analytics at every stage of development of its service line portfolio. Some examples include:
Every organization and every service line portfolio is different, but there are some standard performance measures for hospitals and physician groups. These include:
In addition, to effectively analyze service line performance requires the ability to look at the data from a number of perspectives. For instance:
Slicing and dicing the data this way leads to the ability to find opportunities and uncover problems along the entire life cycle of the service line.
Regardless of where your organization is in terms of development of its service lines and in the development of its business intelligence and performance management capabilities, it just plain makes sense to exploit your data to the fullest to make both more successful. Your organization as a whole and your service lines in particular will be more profitable, more marketable and more exciting as a result.
Thanks for reading!
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